The yoga and wellness community is increasingly seeking sustainable and ethical products to align their buying practices with their values. In this pursuit, many individuals face the challenge of distinguishing genuine sustainability from deceptive greenwashing tactics.
To shed light on this crucial topic, we had the privilege to speak with Pooja Trivedi, Co-founder of Agreenably, a revolutionary online platform that aims to provide a new level of brand transparency for consumers to make informed buying decisions. Join us as we delve into the world of sustainability, the origins of greenwashing, and how Agreenably is empowering conscious consumers to shop responsibly.
Can you share with us the inspiration behind the formation of Agreenably and what makes it stand out from other sustainable product tracking and certification platforms?
We know that consumers are already leaning towards making more conscious retail decisions, but it’s easy to get lost in the mess of greenwashing. It’s frustrating to see the lengths fast fashion brands will go just to hide their unethical practices and promote false sustainable advertising. Lots of large companies capitalize on the fact that ESG(Environmental, Social, and Governance) is a relatively new field with a lot of uncharted territory. It’s easy to make claims with little to no validation, or even hide nuggets of truth amidst a sea of sustainable jargon. The result is widespread confusion and minimal help in the fight against climate change. At Agreenably, our mission revolves around creating a fast and easy way for the customers to find reliable information on products in an effort to combat greenwashing. Our inspiration is centered around helping sustainable vendors and environmentally-conscious customers find each other. By making this connection as seamless as possible, we hope to spark a boom in the sustainability sector. Our most notable feature is our sustainability score. Using 10 different criteria, like water impact, biodiversity, and ethical sourcing for example, we are able to generate a holistic depiction of how sustainably produced a product is. By condensing all of the information we collect into a digestible grade that most people are familiar with, we take the guesswork out of shopping sustainably.
Greenwashing has become a prevalent challenge in today's sustainable marketplace and consumers often struggle to differentiate between authentic sustainable practices and marketing ploys. Define the term Greenwashing for us, as you see it.
In an era marked by growing concern for environmental sustainability, being aware of greenwashing has become more crucial than ever. Greenwashing is a deceptive practice. Companies that greenwash portray themselves or a certain product in a light that does not capture the full picture, let alone the truth! The best example of this is tags on clothing. The tag reads ‘100% recycled materials’ so the shopper believes that this product is environmentally friendly, when in reality there is fine print that stipulates only the tag is 100% recycled materials. Companies that take advantage of perception and do the bare minimum and try to stretch assumptions about their products are guilty of greenwashing. These strategies show no real effort to reduce a product/company’s ecological impact. Furthermore, the wording can often mislead consumers and hinder genuine progress towards a greener future. Recognizing the importance of distinguishing between truly sustainable practices and mere marketing ploys is essential for individuals striving to make informed choices. The significance of understanding greenwashing lies in the potential consequences it poses for both consumers and the environment. When misled by false claims, consumers may unknowingly support companies that prioritize profit over sustainability. By falling victim to greenwashing, individuals inadvertently contribute to the perpetuation of harmful environmental practices. Moreover, greenwashing can create a sense of complacency, giving the illusion that progress is being made while meaningful change remains elusive. Being aware of greenwashing empowers consumers to demand genuine sustainability measures, promoting accountability among companies and encouraging the adoption of environmentally responsible practices. Ultimately, awareness of greenwashing acts as a catalyst for fostering a culture of transparency and driving substantive progress towards a healthier planet for future generations.
How does Agreenably help educate and empower conscious consumers to make responsible choices? Expand on how Agreenably addresses and combats deceptive sustainability claims to ensure genuine product transparency for consumers.
All of the information we gather from interviews coupled with research into specific products is available for customers to view with the permission of our vendors. We share our methodology and vet the companies we chose to partner with in order to set a standard of sustainable goods. Transparency is one of the most important features of our company and as a result, scores for every category are available for customers. If one of the vendors we work with has a practice that might capitalize on greenwashing, it immediately shows in a lower score. Yet, we work alongside these companies to troubleshoot and resolve this. Especially if companies need guidance to become verifiably sustainable, Agreenably is here to help. As an emerging industry, it’s tricky for small businesses to navigate the challenges that come with being a truly sustainable business. However, Agreenably can pinpoint areas that need immediate attention and provide the resources necessary to remediate. Our entire system relies on accountability and Agreenably also provides mechanisms businesses can utilize to hold suppliers and distributors accountable for sustainability claims. Agreenably’s scope includes our immediate vendors in addition to their entire supply chain. Thoroughness and depth is key to capturing the truth behind sustainability claims. It can appear highly granular, but this is what is necessary in order to weed out greenwashing claims from true sustainability claims.
Agreenably uses a comprehensive sustainability rating system. Could you walk us through the process of how you assess and evaluate a product's environmental and social impact?
The Agreenably ratings are based on the average rating of two detailed questionnaires: Environmental Impact and Social Responsibility. Each questionnaire and its respective subcategories were constructed by referencing research and thought pieces by leaders in the sustainability sector. To ensure the most accurate results we gather information through various channels: interviews with leaders, employees, and suppliers; website and news investigation; and document sharing.
Within each of these discrete questions, the way in which the grade is generated is based on a system of priority level and certainty level. Each question receives a priority level based on how relevant the impact is to the environment and/or ethically. The certainty level reflects how well a company takes this into account and factors it into manufacturing their product. This is baked into the questionnaire and doesn’t change based on a vendor’s response.
More details on grading methodology can be found at: https://agreenably.com/methodology/
How does Agreenably prioritize environmental and social factors in the sustainability rating, and why is it essential to consider both aspects when making informed buying decisions?
There is a cost to every product, if we aren't paying for it upfront, something is - the planet, our health, workers overseas, the list goes on. There is always a trade off. The term sustainability, which is so often connected to environmentalism, can't and doesn't exist without equal consideration of ethics. Agreenably’s scoring system considers both environmental and ethical impact equally, we have a percentage breakdown for each subcategory and category, the average of the two grants the overall sustainability score.
Can you highlight a few success stories or instances where Agreenably has played a significant role in promoting sustainability and encouraging brands to adopt greener practices?
Currently Agreenably is focused on small to medium sized businesses (SMBs), generally small teams know every aspect of their business, suppliers, and processes. This also means they are quick to adapt. After running the grading schema we send companies their scores, why they got those scores and tid bits on how they can improve. I can think of two examples already:
One aspect of the carbon section is to look at renewable sources in a vendor’s area. We let one particular vendor know that they could choose to opt in to be powered by renewables for a few extra cents per kWh. The very next day this vendor sent us a receipt showing they had signed up for it! Agreenably never forces a vendor or a customer into a decision; we simply educate vendors and consumers of their options.
Another vendor needed some advice on their labels, as they were using a fully plastic label and adhesive. Luckily one of our other vendors Philorganics uses biostone paper and hemp based labels for all of their packaging, since we had their suppliers on hand we could share this information and said vendor made the switch within a few weeks. Agreenably always gets permission form vendors before sharing practices and suppliers. All this just goes to show how committed and willing our agreenably vendors are to doing right by the environment and ethics!
Sustainability is an evolving concept, and businesses are continually improving their practices. How does Agreenably stay up-to-date with changing sustainability standards and ensure its rating system remains ever-relevant?
At Agreenably, we run our grading schema on every product every 6 months, and this is to ensure that if a formula or supplier has changed for one of our vendor's products, we are relaying the most up-to-date scores to our customers. The last question in each grading session is a request for feedback of the grading schema to ensure we didn't miss any aspect of a vendor's business.
Before the grading session the product team at agreenably has a knowledge gathering session to understand the specific industry’s practices. After each grading session the team has a debrief and discusses any additional questions that need to be addressed to get the holistic picture we are after. We are working towards becoming a data play, with this in mind we can analyze ESG data on a daily or even hourly basis to track and stay on top of the latest sustainable practices.
As a co-founder, what has been the most rewarding aspect of Agreenably's journey so far, and what do you envision for its future?
Without a doubt the best part of being a co-founder of Agreenably has been meeting the passionate lovely business owners in the sustainability space. Every sustainable SMB owner is an expert in their field and we as agreenably get to learn so much about different industries from people who are living and breathing it. Eventually we want to launch tools for large companies as well. Analyzing data in a way that can gauge claim effectiveness, ESG trends, and customer sentiment.
Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Pooja!
As our conversation with Pooja of Agreenably reveals, the platform's commitment to fostering transparency and empowering consumers is a significant step forward in cutting through the greenwashing that undermines the shopping experience of today's eco-consumer.
With Agreenably's comprehensive sustainability rating system, conscious consumers can confidently shop for products that align with their values and contribute to a greener, more sustainable future. Let us all be informed and discerning shoppers, supporting businesses that truly prioritize environmental responsibility and ethical practices. Together, we can make a positive impact, by evolving industry practices towards a future where sustainability is not just a trendy buzzword but an ingrained way of life.
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